Monthly Archives: September 2012

‘Politics in an Oyster House’

A painting by Richard Caton Woodville (American, 1825-55).

Presidential campaigns peaked with massive late October rallies. In a mostly rural nation, political events gathered far-flung citizens who would not otherwise have met. Campaigners became showmen, aping P.T. Barnum and inventing eye-catching contrivances to draw spectators. At first, partisans favored pastoral symbols: log cabins on wheels; smoke curling up from working chimneys; or caged (and very angry) raccoons and foxes, symbolic of the Whig and Democratic Parties. With the Civil War, they turned to ornately uniformed marching clubs, bearing blazing torches reeking of turpentine. Spectators could usually smell a procession before they could see it. And there were always barrels of cider, or lager, or whiskey, or rum, a tin dipper set out as a shinning invitation to enjoy the party‚Äôs hospitality. ~ ‘Riling up the Shrewd, Wild Boys,’ Jon Grinspan, NYT

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